The First Days of the Top Affiliate Challenge

  • Comments: 13
  • Written on: July 4th, 2008

I finally have found a moment to write something on my shinny new blog since the start of the show. We have had some amazing things happen and were also forced to overcome some massive challenges. Here is what we have experienced from a technical side since the start of the show:

  1. Epic Failure with the Web Stream. We are streaming 200-300MB files for the show and delivering pretty good quality for the compression. At least we are now. When the first episode launched I dramatically underestimated the number of people who would tune in out of curiosity.

    Between 1:00 and 4:00 on July 1st, more than 1,300 people attempted to play that stream.We had purchased Amazon bandwidth and had a really nice rack in place to handle the load. I overlooked the pipe. Rookie mistake and TOTALLY my bad.

    We quickly exceeded what a 10/100 wire could handle and that is why the streaming crapped out.Since then we have added two dual core Xeon servers, a Frontier load balancer, and another chunk of bandwidth to our account just to be safe. The video has been served to over 1,000 viewers today with no problems (that I have heard about anyway)

  2. Spotty Wireless Internet. Schrock Innovations added routers to the hotel’s wireless internet to help cover the few dead spots there were, but of course, those weak signal areas happened to be where our teams were working.

    Schrock dropped a direct wire in place and now everyone has Internet. It’s DSL and its getting hammered pretty hard, so it drops occasionally. We are working on getting a high speed cable modem in here by Monday..

  3. Drama vs. Education. When we started the show, we knew there was not enough time to be dramatic and be informative in a 30 minute episode. That is what we designed the bonus footage page for. We could mention an affiliate tactic and then drop a lower third referencing a second video for more information about the tactic.

    I think I went a little overboard on the drama aspect. We will correct that in upcoming episodes. Expect a LOT more education and more predictable scenarios for contestants.

  4. Production and Editing. No one has ever turned a show around as quickly as we are doing. Even though we are now running on a 48 hour episode delay, we are producing each episode in a 24 hour period. Yes, there is some chrome missing, lower, thirds, and Monica’s script is even visible in one of the shots.Even with all of that out there, I wish you could see our crew and editing team in action. Don and Miriam are amazing at what they do and they know exactly how much can get done and still have the episode out the door on time.

    Some people have said some pretty nasty things about the quality of the show, but anyone who has actually DONE something like this can imagine the amazing pressure.

    We have 24 hours to produce the show, so we edit until the wee hours, click render and then go to bed. If ANYTHING goes wrong we have to re-render. Then we have to upload the show. Then we have to test the show (God forbid it corrupted on upload). Then finally we can make it live at 1:00 and move the previous day’s show to the watch page.

    To be honest, the original concept for this show called for $1,000 camcorders. Thanks to Don and Mariam we have over $17,000 in gear and a live switching studio IN A HOTEL. We want the hotel in the shots because it proves a point. You can make money anywhere in the world with affiliate marketing. Even in a hotel in Lincoln, NE.

Every one of us knew that SOMETHING would go wrong. When things went wrong our cast has been AMAZINGLY supportive of our efforts and forgiving – probably more forgiving than I would have been. All of them have my undying gratitude for that. I am sure there is some grumbling, and maybe a little concern over all of the negative reviews on the web. All of the negativity even started to get me down a little.

Rather than stewing or fighting back or arguing I am just going to take some of the critics’ advice and implement it. A lot of the people who have things to say about the show are affiliate marketers themselves. They are our audience and we need to deliver to them. That’s the whole point of this show.

With that said, I would like to get your comments. I want to know what you think we should do differently. I have already tipped our hand a little, but if there is something specific you want to know about affiliate marketing – something you want to have explained from the show, then tell me. We will do our best to deliver.

  1. Jon Waraas said on July 4th, 2008 at 1:13 am

    I will take you up on the suggestions. I think you should have your camera guys follow the affiliates around more and actual see what they are doing. This show is about affiliate marketing, not about drama. Cut the drama and start showing what the affiliates are doing. You spent like 10 mins of the 30 mins video on the part where they kick the newb off.. and a ton of time interviewing the aff’s about random stuff. Less drama and more learning would be great.

    I also think you guys should spend a little bit more time editing. Give yourself 48 hours to make a quality product.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. Peter said on July 4th, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Stop being so cheap and expect contestants to risk their own money if your show gets all the profits.

    Give them e.g. 1000 to work with and the team who has the highest profits will win the challenge.

    If profits are made, just split it 50/50 etc. It is unreasonable to expect me to bet 1000 of my own cash so that you can make cash without any risk.

  3. Thor Schrock said on July 4th, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Thanks for your comment Peter. We never told contestants they would have to spend their own money to win this show. We never suggested it, implied it, or necessarily want to see it.

    Can you imagine how stupid it would look to have someone buy their way to the top?

    Jonathan Van Clute spent about $200 TOTAL of his own money. We started contestants with a zero budget to see how creative they could be. What relationships could they tap and how could they use the show to leverage those relationships.

    To my knowledge no other contestant has spent personal money other than some matching dollars that might be fronted by a guru at some point in the future.

    In fact, the teams DO have small budgets now, and those may increase as time goes on. We are giving them opportunities to win money for their campaigns through various means.

    The final prize for the winner of the show is to split the profits 50/50.

  4. Paul B said on July 4th, 2008 at 10:55 am

    I know it might not be the cool thing to say but I’m quite enjoying it. Sure it’s a bit cheesy (Chow v Shoe) but it’s reality TV at the end of the day. The only thing I would say is the balance between drama and info but you’ve already said you’ll change that.

    Besides everything you’ve got the 1 thing all shows need, a hot chick fronting it.

  5. Peter said on July 4th, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Jonathan Van Clute spent about $200 TOTAL of his own money. We started contestants with a zero budget to see how creative they could be. What relationships could they tap and how could they use the show to leverage those relationships.

    I do understand that, but if this show is for educational value and to teach newbie affiliates how to get started, there are no “strings” to pull etc.

    E.g. I thought the point of this show was to teach newbies how to do affiliate marketing. The only tactic I can think of when you expect traffic in 12 hours is PPC.

    What other methods would you propose to bring in traffic? Right now, I think some of your contestants are just PPC experts, but they cant use their expertise because there is a lack of budget.

    I would not burn 500 dollars on PPC just to try and win a contest daily. But if
    I get a budget and profits are split etc, then there is an incentive to use PPC traffic.

    At the moment, your “contest” basically disallows PPC , this is not stated in the rules, but no one would spend cash if they dont get the returns. Why else would the daily winner be a pathetic 230. . .

  6. feel reality said on July 4th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Hey Thor,

    Thanks for contacting me… I think episode 3 was a major editing improvement. I look forward to episode 4. I do appreciate the fact that you tried to give more insider tips… I would be interested in seeing Shoe Money’s white board plan in your bonus footage.

  7. Shane said on July 4th, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    It’s good to see that you’re taking feedback from your target audience and implementing it rather than defending anything that people are criticizing. That’s a huge step in getting your ship pointed in the right direction. There is a lot of potential and there was obviously a large audience ready and excited about the show.

    The biggest thing I’ve heard (which you already mentioned) is the amount of “what” in the show and not enough “how”. There simply hasn’t been anything that your target audience could take away from any of the shows so far and walk away from feeling as though they gained something from watching them. If people wanted to watch a “reality” show, there are plenty to choose from on tv. This, however, was undoubtedly a show that people hoped to learn something from. What offers are they running, how are they pushing them, do they have landing pages, etc. Unfortunately, the affiliate world is typically hush-hush about all of this and I believe many people had high hopes that this show would “reveal” some of that by having the “gurus” on.

    I personally think the website’s usability could use an overhaul. It’s not easy to find the “archive” page of episodes. Also, how do you get to the “real” homepage when on a blog sub-domain? Clicking on “Home” doesn’t take you there…clicking the logo doesn’t do it. It’s something as simple as that which could help the tiniest bit. The blog could benefit from posts that have a list of tips/tricks from the day….list some highlights….provide some insight into what the teams are doing…link to landing pages, campaigns, blogs, etc that they are using to generate their income for the show. Speaking of the blog, I can’t imagine the Adsense ads are performing well considering the target audience and the styling of them. It hinders the credibility and does more harm than good in my opinion…a show about affiliate income is showing contextual ads?

    As far as video and the quality of intros, bumpers, transitions, etc I have to agree with the criticism you’re seeing. You mention the pressure of editing/rendering in 24 hours and I know what you mean…I’ve worked in video production since the mid 90’s, but there are numerous things that can be done to improve the results. Having professional-quality intros done is a lot easier today with numerous stock video sources such as Digital Juice or even iStock. Same goes for bumpers and outros. I’m not sure why you have what seems to be commercials in the videos…since it’s a buffered flv, people can just skip right past it, which is good for us, but just makes me wonder the point.

    You made the right move in switching to 48 hour delay as people would much rather see a higher quality show with better content than a new video every day. Quality beats quantity and just like the internet…content is the most important aspect. Fill the episodes with quality content that will enrich people’s lives and make them feel as their time was well-spent watching the episodes and you’ll gain back the audience that you started out with as well as attract even more as the word gets out.

    I wish you guys the best in taking the comments, criticisms, feedback, etc and turning this show into what everyone hoped it would be!

  8. Pedro Sttau said on July 5th, 2008 at 6:53 am

    I still fill that some of the things that were “missed” in the first episode were basic elements of video editing and post-production, nothing fancy.

    Having said that, you guys clearly listened to what people had to say and improved.
    The second episode had the name tags/labels, the dynamism and flow of the scenes were much better, overall the quality of the was so much better.

    Don’t get me wrong, the first episode was more then watch able, but the second was enjoyable. 🙂

  9. Scott said on July 5th, 2008 at 8:44 am

    “I think episode 3 was a major editing improvement. ”

    Are you serious? 1st off…yes the show is cheesy but at least the 1st 2 episodes were watchable.

    I couldn’t even finish the 3rd. I found myself pinching my arm asking myself if what I was seeing was real – in the 3rd episode.

    What was that period where there were like 1000000 cuts in a row with the host.
    And then the guy who was voted off talking for so long.

    First..before you respond…if you respond. You had to of expected all kinds of various comments & criticism…thats what blogging is.

    But seriously…

    Please please please…for the shows benefit…show more of the affiliate marketing. Show what the contestants are doing. I realize they don’t want the other teams to know…but you gotta give us something.

    Sorry but the 3rd episode was horrible.

    There is hope…I mean you have plenty of time to pull this off and turn the direction of the show around…just please change something…and maybe alternate hosts once in awhile.

    – Scott

    1st episode was the best so far IMO.

  10. Scott said on July 5th, 2008 at 8:47 am

    PS – Brilliant idea…

    Why don’t you include some of the footage the contestants are taking? you can have them shoot more footage than they already are…themselves.

    Don’t try to be 100% professional when its obviously not working…why not just go for the whole amateur/reality look…which works. Think an ijustine type of thing but for affiliate marketing.

  11. feel reality said on July 5th, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Episode 4 was an improvement, put those terms in a glossary on the site somewhere. Some of them were new to me and interesting.

  12. Graham Langdon said on July 6th, 2008 at 12:25 am

    I’d like to see a more active blog for TAC… maybe updated a few times per day witih little bits and pieces about things that’ve happened throughout the day, and tips on affiliate marketing of course… interesting strategies the teams are trying, results, etc.

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